Wal-Mart is an RFID usage leader in more ways than one. It is commonly known that they are requiring their top 100 suppliers to tag the inventory they ship to Wal-Mart. Target, the Department of Defense, Tesco and METRO AG have followed suit. Wal-Mart is also a leader in the utilization of RFID within its stores by tagging expensive items and triggering cameras if/when those items physically move to begin a lineage of tracking product movement to prevent theft. This represents a step toward more automated stores. Suppliers implementing RFID to comply with these mandates are well advised to look beyond the mandate into other areas of their business that they can optimize with the introduction of this technology.
Although chips are useless without the corresponding readers, it would be erroneous to think that reader saturation is necessary for effective RFID applications. In a retail setup, for example, only key locations such as entrances/exits and pickup areas are required to generally understand customer and product movement for tactical theft prevention as well as to affect store display, product layout and the myriad RFID marketing uses. The current paradigm of customer identification at the register, when the customer is ready to leave the store, needs to be flipped so that the identification occurs upon entry to the store. Reading the store's frequent shopper card or the more general use credit card from a wallet or purse will serve this function. The current practice develops customer profiles from store activity and demographics - not utilizing the information in real time. That will be an industry challenge. Think of the value that other tags on clothes or various customer purchases could provide to this process.
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